”The pandemic challenged psychological safety”
The concept of psychological safety is relatively new in the Finnish Border Guard. Still, there is an increasing demand for open interaction in the work community today,” says Lieutenant Colonel Juha Kivelä.
”The Finnish Border Guard is a militarily organised line organisation, which may sound rigid and stiff. However, this may not be the whole truth. Today’s demands for open interaction constantly teach our supervisors and work units to consider employees’ thoughts and views.
The supervisors play a crucial role in creating an open atmosphere in the Finnish Border Guard. Developing dialogue is one part of leadership and competence. How a dialogue works in the work community is strongly linked to how open the supervisor is to the ideas of the work community.
The preparation of matters requires an open discussion.
Transparency is also required in our actions today. The preparation of matters requires an open discussion, even though the management ultimately makes the decisions in a line organisation.
Psychological safety is not a particularly familiar term in our organisation. When I asked my colleagues, I received various different answers. For example, the importance of caring was raised, meaning that the individual would feel that the organisation cares about the well-being of the work community.
The security agency also identified the impact of the external threat on psychological safety. For example, the topical issue of targeting creates a threat to a sense of psychological safety. In targeting, an authority or other prominent person is a target of a threat. The employer’s task is to ensure that the employee feels that they work in a safe working environment.
As the Finnish Border Guard is a security agency, it is clear that the organisation is also under the external threat described above. Of course, you cannot be prepared for everything, but one of the most important means of the employer is to take care of the skills and proper equipment of the personnel. We have also trained staff at workstations to treat potential threat situations.
The openness of the work community was emphasised.
The COVID-19 period showed that our organisation is well prepared and quickly ready for change situations. The pandemic challenged psychological safety in the work community as situations and requirements changed even on a daily basis. In addition to the risk of infection, our organisation was challenged by the shift in focus from Helsinki Airport and the eastern border to Western and Northern Finland. About half of the people usually working at the airport moved to work far from their own workstations.
It is clear that the change caused uncertainty among employees, as the normal rhythm changed both at work and in their free time. In this situation, too, the openness of the work community was emphasised. Clear and consistent communication and sufficient awareness of the situation contributed to the management of the situation both for the individual and the organisation.”